Female circumcision is illegal in NSW and it is an offence to take a resident overseas to have the procedure performed. but authorities say this is unlikely to be an isolated case, reported The Australian.

A 56-year-old man was charged with two counts of being an accessory after the fact to female genital mutilation, and hindering the investigation. A 42-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman were arrested last Friday and each charged with two counts of female genital mutilation. Police also arrested a 68-year-old woman and charged her with performing the circumcisions.

The alleged mutilation is thought to have occurred in the last 18 months. NSW Family and Community Services and Minister Pru Goward said the investigation was triggered by an anonymous tip-off to her office.

“That’s why the rules were changed in 1994, because I believe that the state was aware that this was a distinct possibility,” Ms Goward told reporters. “It is disappointing in a way that it has taken this long for there to be a case where there was sufficient evidence collected to be able to press charges and make arrests.” she said, also calling female genital mutilation an “abhorrent practice” and “a form of child abuse”.

“It is illegal, and whilst there might be cultural practices acceptable to some communities in NSW it remains the case that it is illegal and that the full force of the law will be brought to bear,”

Goward added that the two girls were safe and not at risk of further harm, but did not say whose care they were now in.